25 Tesla cars were hacked by a teenager. He is now exposing EV loopholes

A teenager from Germany has claimed that he hacked into over two dozen Tesla self-driving cars all over the world, highlighting several loopholes in the vehicles.

 |  3-minute read |   14-01-2022
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David Colombo is a teen hacker from Germany, who gained access to control some functions on more than two dozen Tesla vehicles around the world. Apparently, this was not Tesla’s fault. This sharing of control was because of the owners’ use of third party services and API keys.

WHAT HAPPENED?

David Colombo shared a Twitter thread about how he can remotely run commands on more than 25 Teslas in 13 countries around the world. Fortunately, he had no intentions of using his new powers for evil, but just wanted to contact the owners of these Tesla vehicles to inform them about how to better secure their accounts. He couldn't connect with them, so he tweeted a thread. 

  

 

 SO, WHAT NEW POWERS  DID COLOMBO’S HACKING GET HIM?

  1. He could disable Tesla's Sentry Mode (Sentry Mode is Tesla's surveillance system that uses a 360-degree dash cam to record damage and any attempted break-in)
  2. Unlock the doors
  3. Open the windows
  4. Start the car with remote keyless driving, all without the owner’s knowledge
  5. He can also see the car’s exact location 
  6. He can control the music in the car and play it at the highest volume 
  7. He can continuously flash lights while driving

Though all was good, it does bring about a perspective to mind. 

If this were to be in unknown (dangerous) hands, things could have gone terrribly wrong. Also, stealing cars would be easy because someone could find the car's last location, check their surroundings with the Sentry system and turn on the keyless driving.

Photo: Getty ImagesPhoto: Getty Images

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT? 

News about his tweet spread to senior hackers, who helped him connect with Tesla Canada's Security team. Tesla then did the necessary changes in the tech controls and dissolved many old authentication tokens that were compromised, to create new ones. It seems like the issue has been sorted for the moment.  

LEVELS OF AUTOMATION

The industry has set 5 levels of automation: 

Level 0: No Automation - The driver is completely responsible for controlling the vehicle, performing tasks like steering, braking, accelerating or slowing down. 

Level 1Driver Assistance - At this level, the automated systems start to take control of the vehicle in specific situations, but do not fully take over.

Level 2: Partial Automation - At this level, the vehicle can perform more complex functions that pair steering with acceleration and braking because of greater awareness of its surroundings. Tesla's Autopilot feature is currently working on Level 2 automation. 

Level 3: Conditional Automation - At Level 3, drivers can disengage from the act of driving, but only in specific situations. Conditions could be limited to certain vehicle speeds, road types and weather conditions. 

Level 4: High Automation - At this level, the vehicle's autonomous driving system is fully capable of monitoring the driving environment and handling all driving functions for routine routes and conditions.

Level 5: Full Automation - Level 5-capable vehicles are fully autonomous. No driver is required behind the wheel at all. 

 

WHERE DOES INDIA STAND WHEN IT COMES TO SELF-DRIVING ELECTRIC VEHICLES?  

Someone recently asked Tesla boss Elon Musk about when Tesla's self-driving cars would debut in India, to which he replied: 

In India, companies have to navigate consistent infrastructural and legislative problems to introduce a self-driven car. Though it can improve our life and productivity, given that Indians spend so much time in traffic, absence of the requisite technical know-how may cause it to be a blunder.

In India, startups like Flux Auto and Fisheyebox had made big moves to create self-driven trucks and cars respectively. Flux Auto is a startup that uses modular self-driving technology and turns normal trucks into driverless trucks. Its features include lane keeping, collision avoidance and keeping a check on accidents. 

Whereas Fisheyebox, a Kolkata-based startup, developed a self-driving prototype using a Celerio, to turn low-tech cars into futuristic cars on a low budget.

Here is a footage of a 10-km self-driven truck experience that was shared on YouTube.   

WHAT ABOUT REGULATIONS?

Currently in India, there are no dedicated legislations to regulate self-driving cars. The government has to either introduce a new law altogether, or amend multiple existing Acts like the Information Technology Act 2000, the Motor Vehicle Act 1988, and the Consumer Protection Act. Looks like the government is taking its time to pass legislations on the issue, because even the 2019 Amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act had no visible impact on self-driving cars or autonomous cars. 

It simply permited autonomous vehicle testing in India.

What do you think about self-driving cars? Will they work?

Writer

Akshata Kamath Akshata Kamath @akshispublished

Akshata Kamath is a Digital Storyteller at DailyO. She loves to simplify Finance, Business, Healing and History.

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